When the US government said the sequester would cripple its ability to single-handedly rule over the world, it wasn't kidding. Either that, or Joe Biden's Joint Strategic Plan to "curb" copyright infringement was just a case of very confused humor by the vice president gone badly wrong, and he meant to "encourage." Whatever the reason, the fact that the Obama administration was just busted with a $50 million case of software piracy involving none other than the US Army, is indicative that while the Bureau of Labor Statistics was adopting all the best features of the Chinese Department of Truth, the US government was busy copycatting China's respectful approach toward intellectual property. Yet what is even worse, is that the software that was pirated managed the US army's troop and supply movements: in other words, the US government relied on pirated software to prepare for and engage in eventual war.
With the "inmates in charge of the asylum" during this holiday shortened trading week it seemed to be an apropriate opportunity to share a virtual cornucopia of topics to consider while enjoying the delicious delicacies, and subsequent tryptophan induced comas, of a traditional Thanksgiving.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 28, 2013
With every other bear throwing in the towel left and right these days, we fully expected that the latest letter by SocGen's Albert Edwards would have something about "how much he hates looking at himself in the mirror, but..." Luckily none of that happened. Instead we were greeted by the sharp insight and keen intellect that we have grown to expect from AE, and that have disappeared from the repertoire of so many other sellouts and lemming cheerleaders. Ironically, the topic of Edwards' latest piece is precisely the chart above - the explosion in future margins, or rather the complete lack thereof. But not only that. For everyone else who has dutifully thrown in the towel, very much as the Chairman expects, Edwards has a few words: 'The doomsayers who predicted that this recovery was on the verge of faltering have been proved wrong, and like the boy who cried wolf, can be safely ignored by the market. Yet that is exactly what happened in 2006 with the US consumer and housing boom, where the voices of caution had been so wrong, for so long, that their Cassandra-like utterances were ignored. Cassandra?s forecasts may have been ignored, but they proved to be correct. Investors demand a sign of when to get out and that trigger may have just arrived."
According to the latest Nielsen Research data, in November, CNBC's core 25-54 demographic saw its fourth consecutive month of declines, and dropped to just 31,000 - a declined of over 40% from a year earlier, and the lowest since February 1993: a fresh 20 year low.
"The reality is,"Kevin Warsh exclaims, "QE policy favors those with big balance sheets, those with risk appetites, and access to free money," while real people "are still looking around and saying what is fed policy doing for me." The problem, he explains, is a disconnect between what markets are discounting about the future and the Fed's credibility with regard their apparently divergent forecasts for unemployment, growth, and interest rates. In a little under 90 seconds, Warsh explains the dilemma and sums up the Fed perfectly, "they're just talking, rather than acting."
No matter what measure of confidence, sentiment, or animal spirits one uses, the consumer is not encouraged by the record-er and record-er highs in the US equity market. The Conference Board's consumer confidence data missed for the 2nd month in a row - its biggest miss in 8 months - as it seems in October consumers were un-confident due to the government shutdown... but in November they are un-confident-er due to its reopening. As we have noted in the past a 10 point drop in confidence has historically led to a 2x multiple compression in stocks (which suggests the Fed will need to un-Taper some more to keep the dream alive). Ironically, more respondents believe stocks will rise of stay the same over the next 12 months even as the 'expectations' sub-index collapsed to its lowest in 8 months.
Chart Of The Day: How China's Stunning $15 Trillion In New Liquidity Blew Bernanke's QE Out Of The WaterSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/25/2013 20:25 -0500
Even we were shocked when we ran the numbers on this one...
Just as many expect that the #1 buyer of Treasuries (the Fed) will soon begin paring back its purchases, the top foreign holder (China) may cease buying, thereby opening a second front in the taper campaign. Little thought seems to be given to how the economy would react to 5% yields on 10 year Treasuries (a modest number in historical standards). The herd assumes that our stronger economy could handle such levels. That is why when it comes to tapering, the Fed is all bark and no bite. But the market understands none of this. This is not unusual in market history. When the spell is finally broken and markets wake up to reality, we will scratch our heads and wonder how we could ever have been so misguided.
Here’s the crucial part of what Summers and Krugman are saying: this is not a temporary gig. This isn’t going to just “get better” on its own over time. This really is, as Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO would call it, the New Normal. And if you’re Jeremy Grantham or anyone for whom a stock has meaning as a fractional ownership stake in a real-world company rather than as a casino chip that gives you “market exposure” … well, that’s really bad news... Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that your deep dive into the value fundamentals of some large-cap bank has any predictive value whatsoever for the bank’s stock price, or that a return to the happy days of yesteryear is just around the corner. It doesn’t and it’s not, and even if you’re making money you’re going to be miserable and ornery while you wait nostalgically for what you do and what you’re good at to matter again. Spoiler Alert: Godot never shows up.
In May-July 2013, Bernanke, like the rest of the Fed saw in simple terms that there is no such thing as a smooth exit. The market rebelled at the mere hint of tapering at a time when the Fed is buying $85 billion per month. If the Fed were to actually go ahead and taper what would rates do?
An overview of recent developments, include the political developments in the US Senate, that may weigh on the dollar in the days ahead.
It is hard to believe that the end of the year is fast approaching. This weekend's list of things to ponder covers a range of issues that caught our attention this week. Will the economy continue to grow, are stocks under owned, what about Fed - rising credit risk (and collapsing credit risk premia) and the question of "when or if to taper?" These are all important questions that all investors must answer as the new year rapidly approaches.
If public pensions don't delay and start plugging their funding holes now, they will need to contribute just under $200 billion per year over the next 30 years, amounting to 1.2% of GDP and 8.8% of state and local tax revenues. If funds wait a decade, the impact per year explodes to $325 billion over 30 years and will "cost" 1.2% of GDP and 12.2% of tax revenues. But the most likely, and worst case scenario, is if pension funds do nothing at all, "let the machine run its course", then the economic damage is unquantifiable as low asset returns inevitably cause lower income through benefits after assets are fully depleted.